Colombia’s state-backed oil company Ecopetrol could step in as Team Sky’s main sponsor. Sir Dave Brailsford is believed to have met with Colombian president Ivan Duque and the head of the sport ministry Ernesto Lucena to discuss the team’s future earlier this week.
In December, Sky announced that it would cease sponsorship of Team Sky at the end of this season. Speaking at the time, Brailsford said: “While Sky will be moving on at the end of next year, the team is open minded about the future and the potential of working with a new partner, should the right opportunity present itself.”
Earlier this month, it was reported that Oleg Tinkov had approached Brailsford to discuss sponsoring Team Sky. The Russian billionaire is said to have dismissed the claim as “bullshit.”
Gazzetta dello Sport now reports that Ecopetrol could come on board as a title sponsor – although it would not commit to covering the whole of the team's £34m annual budget. This is despite being one of the four major oil companies in Latin America and among the top 25 in the world.
That would most likely mean a secondary sponsor and Lucena suggested that “three or four multinational companies” could be involved.
Sky has long had Colombians in its squad. Rigoberto Uran signed in 2011, followed by Sergio and Sebastian Henao, and many now feel that the team’s racing future revolves around the 21-year-olds Egan Bernal and Ivan Sosa.
Uran is said to have facilitated this week’s meeting despite having left the team in 2013.
The plan would be for the current riders remain on the team, but for the foundations of the team to be built on Colombian talent longer-term.
While refraining from commenting on the specific rumours, Brailsford told Cycling News it was “only a matter of time” before there was a WorldTour team from Colombia.
"You need the talent and the structures and the pathways, and from our experience, if they’re there then young talented riders will find their pathway to the top. I’d love to see it. It would be great.
"We talk a lot about the globalisation of the sport and I think that the UCI has done a good job, but you can have global events, but you need global teams, and why couldn’t we see a Colombian-based team or one with a Colombian heart? I think it’s only a matter of time.
"I’ve enjoyed very much coming here and whilst I’ve been here I have tried to invest culturally. Proper engagement, not just watching. There’s a difference between observing and really trying to educate yourself about it. I’ve put my mind to it and it’s been a real pleasure to see how the riders fit into the fabric of society and their families fit into the fabric, where cycling fits as a sport into the overall society in Colombia.
"I have just tried to unpick that a bit and what it all looks like, the colours, the music, the fans and the passion. It’s different. It’s important that we try to embrace those differences. I find it hugely exciting and the wealth of talent that exists in this country is second to none."